POLITICAL CLASSIC An Inspector Calls Edinburgh: King's Theatre, Tue l9—Sat 23 Sep.
How do we handle guilt? If we know we’ve wronged someone are we brave enough to apologise, make amends? The truth is, a lot of the time we simply attempt to transfer the guilt to our victim, listing their wrongs in order to justify our responsibility for someone’s pain. In 1.8. Priestley’s classic drama, this is precisely the initial response of the Birling family to news of the suicide of a young pregnant girl, brought by a police inspector. Yet each of them shares a responsibility. Stephen Daldry’s production, now touring as the longest running play ever staged by the National Theatre (it was first produced in 1992), explores not only the personal responsibility of the characters, but their broader political implications, often the neglected theme of this 1946 classic.
Daldry’s name has become one to conjure with in more than one medium over recent times. His new film Billy Elliot gained a screening at the Edinburgh Film Festival, and was voted best film, not by critics, but audiences. Due for full release at the end of the month, it's quietly tipped to do a Full Monty at Britain’s box offices. Set during the miner's strike of 1984, it tells a moving and funny story of the rites of passage of a boy from a mining family, whose developing interest in dance
A detective story with a social conscience
The historical detail is significant here, for it reflects Daldry’s recurrent concern with the link between personal and political conflict. His interest in an An Inspector Calls is characteristic. ‘I had two interests’, he says, ’one was to change the perception of Priestley, who’s been pigeon holed as a particular kind of playwright, and the other was to explore the society we created in 1945, which was destroyed by Thatcherism.‘
Daldry is concerned with the reassessment of Priestley, who has been dismissed over the last generation as a purely commercial, West End style of writer: ’Priestley called himself an experimental playwright, and was very serious about his work. Yes, he's a liberal humanist, and you have avoid words like socialist when you talk about him, but he was serious enough to get up in front of the New York audience after the play's first production there, and read out a political speech removed by the director in performance.’
This political subtext is what Daldry seeks to liberate: "The big question underneath the text is very relevant today. Is society about family, or about village, the broader community?’
If this sounds like dry political debate, Daldry reassures us: ’It’s advantage is, without the politics, the narrative has another dynamic. It’s a detective story, a thriller. People have the capacity to take it that way, too.’
Heggie. Currently writing a book on the subject, Heggie, who walked away from the Edinburgh Festival with a Fringe First for his adaptation of Gogol’s Diary OfA Madman under the title King Of Scot/and, admits to using improv in much of his development of new work. ’l used it in rehearsal for An Experienced Woman Gives Advice and it really helped.’ The acclaimed comedy was staged successfully in Manchester and more recently at the Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum, and has picked up many plaudits inside and out of the UK since.
Heggie will be giving us a chance to
IMPROVISATION lain Heggie
Glasgow: Tron Theatre, until Sat 9 Sep.
For many audiences, the word ’improvisation’ is a dirty one. Mention it to more conservative-minded folk, and it Will conjure up the image of a load of pretentious luvvies getting reimbursement from the Arts Council
to spend three weeks in a brick kiln in
Iain Heggie: willing to experiment
Coatbridge, pretending to be mushrooms and funnel-web spiders. Even some seasoned theatre
professionals are resistant to it, claiming it eats into valuable rehearsal time.
But used properly, it can help develop character, motivation, plot and all aspects of the theatrical experience. One of Scotland’s leading exponents of these techniques is playwright lain
catch his techniques in action at the Tron. Free tickets should attract a healthy audience, and Heggie, or possibly a compere, will be introducing a group of young actors in a succession of short improvrsation exercises. ’The audience will be given the motivation of each actor. Each one will have something they want in the situation, but they won’t know each other’s motivation,’ explains Heggie. ’I hope it’ll be challenging for both audience and actors.’ (Steve Cramer)
Stage whispers Re: heading the boards
AT THE END of another Edinburgh Festival, you hear the usual grumbles about the standard of this year’s fare. ’Not up to much this year, not really a strong Festival,’ is mumbled from the corners of every Scottish theatre bar.
This, though, is what you might call the pop-chart phenomena. ’There was much better music in the charts years ago,’ we tend to say to ourselves as we peruse the current Top 40, but only because we remember the best of it, and forget Rick Astley. A moment’s reflection, and you can see some strong productions coming from the Festival, with Scotland the beneficiary.
Productions such as Decky Does A Bronco, Further Than The Furthest Thing and Medea will still be available to audiences after the Festival, as our listings will bear out. With these three alone, one can label the grumblers as simple nostalgics. Go back to your Smiths’ records, the Festival's in good shape.
WITH THE LYCEUM’S new season about to kick off in Edinburgh with Hector Macmillan’s Hypochondriak (see preview) it’s timely to consider further treats in store later in the season. The general look is one of safety first, with some solid repertory stock ahead, but there’ll be no shortage of entertainment. Further on, Kenny Ireland will be directing Romeo And Juliet, with Matthew Pigeon and young LAMDA graduate Kananu Kirimi as the sweaty adolescents of the title. Cinderei/a is the Christmas show, followed by Torben Betts’ A Listening Heaven, a contemporary suburban drama, directed by Muriel Romanes, which might be compared with Ayckbourn’s dramas of middle-class angst. Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge is February’s highlight, and Elaine C. Smith will lead in Guys And Dol/s late in March. THE SEASON'S MOST adventurous gesture is the visit by ktc at its close, with David Harrower’s adaptation of Buchner’s Woyzeck. This gifted young writer’s work has an odd affinity with Buchner’s and could prove to be truly startling.
Graham McLaren directed Fringe
7—21 Sep 2000 THE “ST 49